How Often You Should Get Tested for STIs

How Often You Should Get Tested for STIs

No matter your relationship status, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) should be on everyone’s health radar. STI rates are higher than ever before in the US, and both chlamydia and gonorrhea have the potential of becoming antibiotic-resistant. While there may be stigmas surrounding STIs that need to be banished, it is important that you are knowledgeable about STIs, their prevalence, and how they can affect you. Too few women are seeking out screening for sexually transmitted diseases

You should not feel ashamed about your sexual activity or STI status, but rather you should take responsibility for your health and safety and that of your sexual partners. The answer to how often you should get tested for STIs may surprise you. 

Getting Tested for STIs

Because STIs are so common, it’s a safe bet to get tested once a year, even if you’re practicing safe sex and using protection. Your doctor may not automatically test you at every appointment so make sure to ask about it if they don’t offer it. 

Here are some testing recommendations for prominent STIs:

STI Testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia

  • If you have HIV.
  • If you are sexually active and at risk for STIs, which can include new or multiple sexual partners.

Testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia is done using a cervical swab or a urine test which is then taken to a lab and analyzed. 

STI Testing for Hepatitis, Syphilis, and HIV

While these infections are not as prevalent, you should still get tested for them annually. These are checked with a blood test.

STI Testing for HPV

Certain types of HPV can develop into cervical cancer while other types of the virus can manifest as genital warts. Many people that are diagnosed with HPV in their lives never develop symptoms and the virus typically leaves the body within two years. 

Women may be tested for HPV through a Pap smear or an HPV test. If your pap smear shows abnormal results, your doctor will likely recommend further testing and your doctor may check your cervix for HPV or cancerous cells. 

You should get tested for HPV every few years if you have had an abnormal pap smear in the past. 

STI Testing for Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a bit harder to test for because there are no concrete tests that can be done to detect genital herpes. A culture of a genital sore may be taken but usually only when you have symptoms. A blood test may be able to help detect a herpes outbreak, but the results are often inconclusive because it will not show if you had exposure to oral or genital herpes. 

The dedicated health professionals at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care want to restore your peace of mind. If you or a loved one has any questions about STIs or are looking to get treated for them, please contact us today.

Your Questions About Endometriosis Answered

Your Questions About Endometriosis Answered

Women are no strangers to the different ways that menstruation can affect life. For many women, this looks like a monthly bout of bloating, cramps, and occasional mood swings. But if you have endometriosis, symptoms can be far more severe and can halt daily life, leaving you miserable and in pain. If you think you may have endometriosis, you are likely filled with questions: What causes it? What are all of the symptoms of this condition? What are my treatment options? Not to worry, we have answers to the most commonly asked questions about endometriosis and treatment options.

What is Endometriosis?

The inner layer of the uterus is lined with a tissue that is called the endometrium. During menstruation, the tissue grows thicker as the tiny blood vessels multiply to prepare for a fertilized egg. If pregnancy does not occur, the tissue breaks down and the blood exits the body through menstruation. 

Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrium travels outside the uterus and surrounds other reproductive organs, most commonly the ovaries and the fallopian tubes, or it attaches itself to other tissues in the pelvis. As the endometrium is displaced from the uterus, the extra blood and tissue have no way to exit the body which, in turn, can cause cysts to form on the ovaries. For many women that are diagnosed with endometriosis, this means severe pain during their menstrual cycle. 

Endometriosis occurs in about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. Most often, it is diagnosed in women who are in their 30s and 40s. 

What Causes Endometriosis?

The cause of endometriosis is unknown. However, endometriosis is a condition more likely to develop in women who have other family members who have been diagnosed with endometriosis, women who have undergone a cesarean, and women who have fewer than 25 days between menstrual cycles. 

Endometriosis is diagnosed first by a physical exam, including a pelvic exam performed by your OBGYN. However, the only way to truly tell if a woman has endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. Sometimes a bit of tissue will be removed during this procedure in a process called a biopsy. 

What Are The Symptoms of Endometriosis?

Some women with endometriosis do not show symptoms, however, those who do show symptoms experience them right before their period. The most common symptom of endometriosis is chronic (long-term) pain in the pelvic region. Endometriosis can also cause pain during sexual intercourse. Endometriosis can also affect the bowel and bladder causing pain during bowel movements or urination, respectively. Heavy menstrual bleeding is another common symptom of endometriosis. Symptoms can be severe enough that they disrupt daily life and can include

  • Heavy periods
  • Severe lower back pain
  • Intense cramps
  • Intense stabbing pains
  • Severe migraines
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Pain during urination and/or bowel movements
  • Pain during sexual intercourse

Endometriosis can also make it difficult to get pregnant. Almost 40% of women with infertility have endometriosis. The inflammation caused by endometriosis can damage the sperm or egg or interfere with their movement through the fallopian tubes and uterus. In more severe cases of endometriosis, the fallopian tubes may be blocked by adhesions or scar tissue. 

What Are the Treatment Options for Endometriosis?

Treatment for endometriosis will depend on the severity of the condition, the symptoms the patient experiences, and whether or not the patient plans to get pregnant. Endometriosis may be treated with medication, surgery, or both. 

If you or someone you love are suffering from endometriosis, you don’t have to go it alone. The staff at Mid-Atlantic Women’s Care is knowledgeable when it comes to this common condition and we understand what you’re going through. Contact us to schedule an appointment and find the best course of action for you.

What You Need to Know Before Getting an IUD

What You Need to Know Before Getting an IUD

IUDs or intrauterine devices are one of the most popular methods of birth control among women, particularly in recent years. Many women like that it offers many benefits that the pill cannot: it is a “set it and forget it” method of birth control, involving a one-time payment, and the patient does not have to remember to take a pill at the same time on a daily basis. If you are considering getting an IUD, there are a few things you should know before having it inserted

What is an IUD?

An IUD is a small, flexible, T-shaped plastic device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare professional. There are five brands of IUD divided into two different types:

  • Copper IUDs (a.k.a. ParaGard)
  • Hormonal IUDs (include Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla)

Hormonal IUDs work by using the hormone progestin to thicken cervical mucus which blocks sperm. Copper IUDs are wrapped in a small bit of copper, are nonhormonal, and act as spermicide, damaging sperm mobility and viability. The body’s response to the IUD varies from person to person; for some, ovulation is prevented too while for others, it is not. Generally, they all work by preventing sperm from getting to the egg. 

The main difference between the two types of IUDs is how long you can keep them in without benign replaced. ParaGard can remain in place for up to 12 years while the Mirena and Liletta can for six years, Kyleena for five years, and Skyla for three years.

IUDs are ranked for the same effectiveness at preventing pregnancy as getting your tubes tied but they do not impact your future fertility. The IUD has a 99% rate of effectiveness, largely because, unlike the pill, it is not something you can forget to take, therefore, there is no user error involved. 

How is an IUD inserted? Is it painful?

In the insertion process, the cervix is opened and the IUD is placed into the uterus. While the insertion process can be slightly painful, the procedure generally takes just a few minutes. You may experience cramping for about 24 to 48 hours after the procedure as this is a common response among women after an IUD is inserted.

Will an IUD affect my period?

Whether or not your period alters, depends on the type of IUD you choose. Hormonal IUDs tend to make periods lighter and shorter and lessen cramps. IUDs may instead cause a heavier period, but this generally fades over time. Every woman reacts differently but if you are concerned about how you may react to an IUD, you should discuss this with your OBGYN during your consultation appointment

What are the pros and cons of an IUD?

In addition to the advantages previously mentioned, IUDs have long-lasting effects but can be reversed simply by removing the IUD. What makes the IUD appealing to many is that you visit an office once to have it inserted then you don’t have to remember on a daily basis to take a pill. It is the most effective but also reversible form of contraception. 

The biggest disadvantage of IUDs is the discomfort they can cause women. There are a wide array of side effects that can come along with them including abdominal or pelvic pain, nausea, vomiting, migraines, headaches, spotting or irregular bleeding, and breast tenderness. The side effects vary depending on which type of IUD you get. 

This does not typically happen but there is a slim chance your IUD could fall out, most commonly during a period in the first three months. Your OBGYN may recommend that you check to feel for the IUD string occasionally but never pull it out. If your IUD does become dislodged, see your OBGYN ASAP to have it reinserted.

Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

Unexpected Side Effects of Pregnancy & How to Handle Them

We have not been shy about all the things that pregnancy brings into your life, not only a beautiful new baby, but also the side effects that come with their growth, development, and arrival. Some women deal with morning sickness, others have food aversions, both symptoms that some scientists say potentially protect the developing baby from being exposed to food-borne illnesses. There are, however, many other symptoms that you may experience during pregnancy that aren’t pretty and seem to have no explanation. We find that in situations like these, knowing beforehand makes the situations all the better. 

Overactive Salivary Glands

In addition to morning sickness, your mouth will start to produce saliva in overdrive. Typically, the salivary glands produce about 400 ml to 1 liter of saliva on a daily basis. That sounds like a lot, but it goes relatively unnoticed because you are constantly swallowing throughout the day. During pregnancy, however, women produce more saliva because of increased saliva production, decreased swallowing, or a combination of both.

Experts don’t have a definite reason for this happening but attribute it to hormonal changes. You can ease this symptom by chewing gum, drinking water, sucking on a mint, and/or frequently brushing your teeth. 

The Frequent Urge to Pee

As a result of a growing fetus pushing on your bladder, increased blood volume, and hormonal changes, pregnant women will frequently feel the urge to urinate. Not only will you find yourself running to the bathroom more often, but you may also notice that you leak a bit when you sneeze, cough, or laugh. It is an unexpected but unavoidable side effect of pregnancy as the mother’s pelvic floor weakens. Your body is circulating 25% more fluid during pregnancy so it is important that you are not holding it and are allowing yourself plenty of bathroom breaks in your day. 

Varicose Veins & Burst Capillaries

Varicose veins are swollen veins that appear near the surface of your skin. They may appear purple or blue and often in the legs due to several different factors: your growing baby adding increased weight and pressure on your legs and the circulation in your legs growing weaker. 

Varicose veins typically cause little to no discomfort and are resolved upon giving birth. Pregnant women may also experience hemorrhoids which are varicose veins that occur in the rectum. 

Similarly, pregnancy increases the risk of developing broken blood vessels which typically fade after giving birth.

Breakouts

Around week six of pregnancy, most women experience a surge in fluid retention and progesterone which causes an increase in sebum production, both of which can cause breakouts. And unfortunately, because of pregnancy, options for battling acne are relatively limited because of the active ingredients that can be harmful to the fetus. If you are struggling with acne during pregnancy, speak with your OBGYN and they should be able to give you recommendations of treatments. 

Excessive Sweating

Due to fluctuating levels of estrogen during pregnancy, you will probably find out that early on, you sweat a lot more than usual. You may also find that your sweat smells different than it ever has before. Changing hormones and an increase in blood flow can slightly raise the body temperature soon after you become pregnant which can make the woman feel hot and cause her to sweat more as her body attempts to cool her down. This is one of the first signs that signal pregnancy for many women

There are a couple of things you can do to counteract increased sweating during pregnancy: exfoliate your armpits frequently using a scrub or by shaving. Keep a deodorant in your purse to be easily accessible to you. 

The Dandruff

Dandruff can be a painful condition for some so dealing with it in addition to all the other side effects that come with pregnancy can be overwhelming. Many people associate dandruff with hygiene issues and not showering enough. However, dandruff is rarely the result of poor hygiene and more often the process of shedding dead skin cells to make way for new cells. It’s a completely natural process but when the process is faster, the scalp gets covered with flakes. 

Often dandruff becomes more of an issue during pregnancy for a variety of reasons. The skin often becomes more sensitive during pregnancy and can be irritated by the products you previously had no trouble with. As a result, changing up your hair care routine during pregnancy may be a good idea. 

 

Before looking for medical solutions to these side effects or others, check with your doctor. 

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Ingredients in Beauty Products You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

As people become more and more aware of the toxic ingredients often included in beauty products, making sure you know what is going into your body becomes even more important during pregnancy. We understand that it can be hard to give up a foundation, mascara, or quality skincare item that you’ve been using for years particularly when natural products just don’t seem to compare. 

You’ve probably even convinced yourself that the parabens and silicones that you’re putting on your skin don’t pose any imminent danger in the short-term. But now that your choices affect the baby too, you may want to take another look at that ingredients list and educate yourself to make sure none are toxic to his or her health. Here are some ingredients that are commonly found in beauty products that you should be aware of and avoid during pregnancy.

Artificial Fragrances

Fragrances are generally made of harmful chemicals that have been linked to nervous system issues and cancer and shorter-term effects like redness and irritation on the applied area. Some companies try to hide the fact that fragrances are included by using terms like perfume, parfum, or even flavor (for more information, check out the FDA’s guidelines on fragrances in cosmetics). Most fragrance-free products are labeled as such – although some that say “unscented” contain fragrances – so opt for these options when searching for makeup, skincare, or hair care products. 

BPA

You are probably aware that you aren’t supposed to microwave food in plastic dishes because the BPA from the plastic can seep into the food when heated. But did you know that BPA can infiltrate into whatever is being contained by it. This highly unstable chemical that is most commonly used in plastics can disrupt the endocrine system leading to breast/prostate cancer, infertility, heart disease, and diabetes. Fetuses that have been exposed to BPA have been linked to developmental issues, obesity, and behavioral problems.

Formaldehyde

For years, connections between exposure to formaldehyde and reproductive issues were unfounded and inconclusive. But in recent review, there has been much more evaluative evidence of an association between formaldehyde exposure and adverse reproductive and developmental effects. The chemical is a classified carcinogen and ubiquitous environmental contaminant that’s been linked to cancer as well as other nervous system issues like trouble breathing, respiratory irritations, chest pain, and coughing. 

Formaldehyde is often found in some hair-straightening products and in nail polishes. During pregnancy, a trip to the salon is okay every now and then but make an effort to find a well-ventilated salon as the presence of this chemical puts your body, your baby, and salon workers at risk. If you choose to do your own nails, look for nail polishes labeled 3-free and 5-free as they don’t contain this chemical. 

Parabens

Parabens are a commonly used preservative that helps to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria in all kinds of beauty products including shampoos, soaps, deodorants, makeup, and skincare. The FDA says that studies have not yet shown definitive proof that parabens are harmful to health. However, the skin can absorb parabens in lotions and cleansers and moisturizers where it then enters the bloodstream and can harm the baby. Some research has shown that exposure to parabens during pregnancy may increase the baby’s likelihood of increased weight gain in infancy and obesity in adulthood. 

Hydroquinone

You’ll find this skin-lightening agent in brightening serums and creams used to treat conditions like hyperpigmentation and melasma. This is a product you should avoid using till after the baby is born because studies have shown that 45% of hydroquinone is absorbed by the skin after using it in a topical product. While no studies have shown that this has a direct effect on the fetus, too much of the chemical soaks into your bloodstream for comfort. Instead, to help prevent dark spots and discoloration during pregnancy use sunscreen…religiously!

Retinoids

Retinoids are frequently found in prescription acne and anti-aging medications like Retin-A and Accutane and have proven to be connected to an increased risk of birth defects in developing babies. We warn patients not to get pregnant if they are on these medications but if you do get pregnant, stop taking retinoids immediately. 

Sulfate

You’ve probably heard many recommendations to steer clear of shampoos and soaps with sulfates, a chemical that acts as a foaming agent. Prolonged exposure to sulfates can cause issues with the nervous system and kidney and liver function. Short-term, if ingested, sulfates can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea. 

Phthalates

This ingredient is used to help stabilize the formulas of many moisturizers, soaps, and deodorants. But it has also been linked to liver, kidney, lung, and reproductive issues. Parabens and phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC) that affect the body’s levels of reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Researchers have made connections between EDC exposure and preterm birth and hypospadias, a birth defect in the male reproductive tract in which the penis doesn’t form normally during pregnancy. Avoid all products with ingredients ending in -phthalate. 

Our intention with this article isn’t to scare you but rather to be more aware of what you are putting in and on your body whether you’re pregnant or not. If you ever have questions about the safety of a product, ask your OBGYN or PCP if it’s safe for use.

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

What to Expect in the First Few Months After Giving Birth

Before, during, and after pregnancy, friends, family, and random internet sources alike will try to tell you what is “normal” and what isn’t. It can leave you feeling really confused as to why your experience doesn’t compare to what’s “normal.” Even after giving birth, you’ll hear statements like “You’ll heal in no time” even though, for many women, the post-partum period can be much more complicated than that would suggest. Here’s what you should know about the first few months after giving birth, also frequently referred to as the “fourth trimester.” 

Your Pelvic Floor Muscles May Be Weakened

Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles as they have to support the weight of the baby. In the first few days after giving birth, you may find that you can’t make it to the toilet before urinating. This is called incontinence and it usually goes away as your pelvic muscles become stronger. You may also find that you feel pain or burning when you urinate or you have trouble urinating. Soaking in a warm bath can help to relieve these issues and if that doesn’t help, speak to your OBGYN.

They will need adequate time to recuperate. In addition to giving your body time to heal, you should also eat a diet filled with nutritious, easy-to-digest foods and spend time off your feet, sleeping when the baby sleeps. That gives your hormones and body time to regulate and transition into restorative mode. There are exercises you can do that will strengthen those muscles but the best thing to do in the early days is rest.

You May Experience A Lot of Bleeding

Even if you had a vaginal birth with no tearing, your body has undergone a massive undertaking by building a human, pushing said human out, and producing the nutritional requirements for the newborn through breastfeeding. As a result of this process, you may experience bleeding in the days and maybe weeks after giving birth. 

Following birth, you will most likely have to wear at least a hospital-grade pad at first and then a regular pad as the bleeding lightens. You may find that you bleed more after bringing the baby home because you are on your feet and moving around more. Try to stay off your feet as much as possible. After about 10 days, you should start to see less blood. You may experience light bleeding or spotting for up to 6 weeks after delivery.

You may experience pain in your breast

If you are breastfeeding, it is likely that you will experience some nipple pain in the first few days, especially if your nipples crack. In this case, you should ask your OBGYN to help you make sure your baby is latching properly. He or she should also be able to recommend a cream that you can put on your nipples. You should also massage breast milk onto your nipples after breastfeeding and let it air dry.

In addition to pain in your nipples as a result of breastfeeding, your breasts will also become engorged as they start to fill with milk. It usually happens a few days after giving birth and can leave your breasts feeling tender and sore. The discomfort generally goes away once you start regularly breastfeeding. If you’ve chosen not to breastfeed, this feeling may last until your breasts stop making milk, usually taking a few days. 

You can relieve this feeling of discomfort by trying not to miss a feeding or going a long time between feedings particularly during the night. Before you breastfeed your baby, express a small amount of milk from your breast either by hand or using a breast pump. It also helps to take a warm shower or lay warm towels on your breasts to promote milk flow. If the feeling of engorgement becomes too overbearing, put cold packs on your breasts.

You May Experience Swelling

Many women experience swelling in their hands, feet, and face during pregnancy due to the extra fluids in the body. It’ll take some time for this swelling to go away even after the baby is born but you can help relieve the swelling by lying on your left side when resting or sleeping, putting your feet up, drinking plenty of water, and keeping cool. 

Your Hair May Start To Thin

You may have noticed that your hair probably grew thicker and fuller during pregnancy. This happens as a result of the high levels of hormones in your body causing you to lose less hair during pregnancy. After your baby is born, you may notice that your hair has started to thin or you may even lose hair. Hair loss usually stops within 6 months of giving birth and you should return to your normal hair fullness within a year. Just make sure to eat a nutritious diet as the nutrients in fruits and vegetables can help protect and restore your hair and be gentle with your hair. No tight ponytails or sleeping in rollers all night; they can put stress on your hair and pull it at the scalp.

You May Notice Changes In Your Skin

You may notice stretch marks on your body from where your skin stretched to accommodate the pregnancy and they generally fade over time. You can use creams or lotions that are specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of stretch marks. 

It May Be Hard To Sit

Movement may be difficult in the first few days after giving birth and sitting down may not provide much relief. Once you have stopped bleeding, full-body baths should help as the heat therapy a bath provides helps to promote tissue health. Until you get to that point, we recommend sitz baths as they bring heat and circulation to the tissue and can help to speed up the healing process and reduce scar tissue. 

You may also find that you have trouble with bowel movements. This can happen for a few days after giving birth. To relieve the pain caused by constipation, make sure to eat foods that are high in fiber, omega 3s, and magnesium as they can help to soften stools. Make sure you are also drinking lots of water.

You May Get Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen, painful veins in and around the anus that may bleed or hurt. They are common during and after pregnancy. You can relieve the pain associated with hemorrhoids by soaking in a warm bath or asking your provider about over-the-counter medications that can help with the pain.

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

How to Avoid Birth Defects During Pregnancy

Now that you’ve found out you are pregnant (congratulations!), you probably are making every effort to ensure that you give birth to the healthiest baby possible. While not all birth defects can be prevented, women can increase their chances of having a healthy baby by maintaining healthy conditions and adopting healthy habits before becoming pregnant that she carries into the pregnancy. 

Before moving on, let’s clarify what a birth defect is. Birth defects are problems that occur during the baby’s development during pregnancy. Birth defects can affect different aspects of the child including their brain function and development, physical appearance, and organ function. Most defects occur during the first trimester which is why it’s so important to develop healthy habits prior to becoming pregnant.

What causes birth defects?

There are some birth defects whose exact cause is unknown but there are certain birth defects where the result in the fetus developing improperly can be determined by the following factors:

  • Genetic mutations
  • Smoking while pregnant
  • Consuming alcohol while pregnant
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Mother of an older age
  • Using illegal drugs
  • Obesity of the mother
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Inadequate prenatal care

Many defects can be identified during pregnancy with prenatal ultrasounds. If your OBGYN sees something of concern that could mean an issue with your baby’s development, they’ll order additional screening. 

Taking steps to prevent birth defects

While again, not all birth defects can be prevented, there are some steps women can take during pregnancy to reduce their risk.

Step #1: Do not smoke, drink, or do drugs

Drinking alcohol, smoking, and using illegal drugs can cause fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, stillbirth, cleft lip, sudden infant death syndrome, brain damage, low birth weight, or neonatal abstinence syndrome. 

Step #2: Look for solutions to existing health problems

If you’ve previously been diagnosed with a chronic health condition including diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure, or HIV, speak to your doctor about managing that condition during your pregnancy. These conditions can raise your risk of stillbirth, miscarriage, birth defects, or premature birth. 

Step #3: Maintain a healthy body weight

There seems to be the common thinking that when a woman is pregnant, she is now eating for two. And while this may be true, there is no reason she should double the amount of food she eats. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can lead to complications including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes and it can increase the likelihood that your child will develop diabetes during childhood. 

Step #4: Eat healthy

In addition to maintaining a healthy body weight, now is the best time to make sure you are eating foods with high nutritional value. Foods that are high in folate like leafy green vegetables, avocado, and brussel sprouts are great because folate is essential in developing the red blood cells and preventing birth defects. For a list of foods to avoid during pregnancy, check out our blog post.  

Step #5: Stay hydrated

Babies receive nutrients through the amniotic fluid during pregnancy which is essential to the healthy development of the baby’s lungs and digestive system. The mother must stay hydrated in order to ensure there is an adequate amount of amniotic fluid surrounding her baby.

Step #6: Exercise

Regular exercise throughout pregnancy is essential to maintaining a healthy weight and decreasing the mother’s risk of developing gestational diabetes. Women should, however, speak to their OBGYN to ensure they are leading an active lifestyle while making modifications to keep the baby safe. 

Step #7: Get adequate prenatal care

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you should schedule an appointment with your OBGYN with the first prenatal visit falling around eight weeks after your missed period.

Can STDs Cause Infertility?

Can STDs Cause Infertility?

Finding out that you have a sexually transmitted disease (STD) can come with a host of overwhelming emotions including surprise, anger, and fear and even more questions. You wonder if it’s curable or how it will affect your life. You worry about having to tell future sexual partners or how it might affect your plan to have children someday if that is your hope. Whether or not it will affect your fertility depends on your condition as well as how early you detect it. 

Which STDs can cause infertility?

The problem is that some STDs don’t come with identifiable symptoms so people can live with them for years without being aware of them. This increases the risk of developing complications like infertility or infecting future sex partners. Early detection is the best way to avoid such risk as infertility caused by STDs is highly preventable.

Chlamydia

This is one of the most common STDs. On its own, the disease doesn’t cause infertility, however 40% of women with chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID affects the cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, often leading the woman to become infertile. 

Chlamydia is one of the STDs that doesn’t have symptoms so most women that have it are unaware that they do. In some rare cases, a woman may experience signs of the infection including unusual vaginal discharge, a burning sensation while urinating, and painful sex. 

Fortunately, chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics which is why it is so critical that it is caught and treated early.

Gonorrhea

Here is another example of an STD that rarely shows symptoms. People who do show symptoms may experience spotting between periods, burning while urinating, or vaginal discharge that is white, yellow, or green. The infection can affect the urethra and cervix.

Gonorrhea can also be treated with antibiotics but, if left untreated, it can spread to the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. It can cause the fallopian tubes to scar, making it difficult for the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg and also increasing the possibility of the person getting pelvic inflammatory disease. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is the most common STD in the US. This is a group of more than 150 viruses, some of which can lead to cancer of the reproductive organs. Most people don’t have symptoms which is why it’s so important that you are scheduling annual exams with your OBGYN. Detecting HPV early can decrease the risk of it developing into cancer of the vulva or cervix which can cause infertility.

Preventing infertility caused by STDs

Since STDs can remain in the body for years without ever showing signs, all sexually active women should have annual screenings where they are tested for STDs.

Do’s and Don’ts of Your First Trimester

Do’s and Don’ts of Your First Trimester

After finding out you’re pregnant (congrats mommy-to-be!), you may start to feel a little anxious. What can you do? What can you not do? What foods and drinks should you avoid? With so much information out there, it can quickly become overwhelming. That is exactly why we’ve put together this list of do’s and don’ts for your first trimester, so you can make the best possible decisions for you and your baby during this important phase of pregnancy.

DO start taking folic acid supplements

You’ll want to start taking folic acid supplements as soon as you find out that you’re pregnant. This provides essential nutrients that helps protect the baby’s brain and spinal cord. You may also want to start taking prenatal vitamins. 

DO prepare for morning sickness

Despite its name, morning sickness can last all day typically during the first trimester. While not all women are plagued with morning sickness during pregnancy, many are so it’s best to get ready for it ahead of time. 

There are teas specifically formulated to combat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. If you find that you’re prone to morning sickness, you can brew yourself a cup each morning. There are also morning sickness hard candies that you can eat in addition to your cup of tea or instead of it.

If you find that you have mild morning sickness, then you can take measures like eating small and frequent meals and sticking to foods that are bland and simple. If you find that it is severe you should talk to your OBGYN immediately.

DO learn about health insurance and pick a provider

If you already have health insurance, you should look into the plans for prenatal care and delivery expenses. If healthcare is provided by your job, look into the benefits offered by the health insurance company. 

From there, it’s time to choose an OBGYN or a midwife. The reason it’s advised to look into health insurance first is because they likely have a list of participating providers. A good way to find a healthcare provider is through recommendations from friends and family. Ensure they are under your health insurance plan and, if possible, meet with a few to see if they are a good fit

DO set up your first prenatal appointment

Before your appointment, make a note of the first day of your last period as they will ask you this, and write down any questions that you may have for your doctor. If there are diseases or disorders on either the father’s side of the family or yours, these are a great thing to discuss with your doctor. 

You should also make sure to consult your doctor about any medications you are on to make sure they are safe for pregnant women. Continue to do this throughout your pregnancy if you are prescribed different medications, including over-the-counter ones. Mention any herbs, vitamins, or other supplements you take. 

DO limit stress

It’s so easy to get overwhelmed in the first few months of pregnancy with lists of things you have to do. But stress is bad for your health and for the baby’s development so you’ll want to avoid it as much as possible. 

Easier said than done, right? Well, there are a few measures you can take in order to make this process easier for yourself:

  • Take everything day-by-day. For example, instead of doing everything all at once, take it in stride and do one thing every day to get prepared for the new baby’s arrival.
  • Practice deep breathing. When you are starting to feel stressed, don’t let yourself get too worked up. It’s normal! Instead, take a few deep, calming breaths and refocus your intentions. 
  • Use a pregnancy planner. This will help you to stay organized and abreast of the things you have to do so that you can reduce stress. 

DO cultivate better habits

If you haven’t already read our general list of do’s and don’ts for pregnancy, you should give it a look. There are things that will be important throughout your pregnancy. We included the importance of exercise (you may need to modify your workouts to accommodate your pregnancy), eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Those are extremely important in the healthy development of your baby and in maintaining your own health. But it’s not enough to start doing that in your 3rd trimester and hoping that’s enough. You need to start now, during your first trimester. 

  • Exercise: Between the nausea and low energy, working out may be the last thing you feel like doing. But it’s important to get up and move as it makes for a more comfortable pregnancy and can help reduce complications.
  • Get lots of sleep: Being pregnant is very demanding on your body and being a new mom is even more so. Make sure you are getting enough sleep to help you prepare.
  • Eat healthy: It’s essential that you are eating a healthy and balanced diet so that you are getting all the nutrients that you and your baby need. 

DO talk to your partner about parenting and budgeting

This is going to look different for all couples because everyone goes into parenthood with their own ideas and practices. One good way to tackle this is to sit down and both write a list of what parenting means to you and what each of you saw from your mother and father. Then, come together and agree on practices that add value to the baby’s life and help raise your child positively.

It’s also important that you talk about how you plan to handle the baby’s expenses. It’s no secret that babies can be expensive with all the diapers, food, toys, and baby gear, in addition to saving for when the baby grows up. Check where you can trim your budget now and make adjustments to save money that can be used for your baby.

DON’T paint the nursery

It’s an exciting step to get to decorate the baby’s room but the chemicals and solvents in paint can be toxic and harmful. If you do insist on painting, use natural or organic paints and ensure the room is well-ventilated.

DON’T consume foods that may be harmful to you or your baby

We go much more in-depth in our article on the top 11 foods to avoid during pregnancy so be sure to check that out.

DON’T smoke or breathe in secondhand smoke

Cigarette smoke is linked to many complications that may include cancers, premature delivery, low birth weight, miscarriage, sudden infant deather syndrome, and learning or behavioral disabilities as the baby grows and develops. You should not be doing any recreational drugs as they can be harmful and toxic to you and the baby. 

DON’T stay in the same position for an extended period of time

Do not sit or stand for long periods of time as it can hurt your ankles and veins. Take frequent breaks to move around and keep your legs elevated after you’ve been on your feet for a while.

DON’T drink alcohol

Alcohol can pass through the placenta and umbilical cord and affect the baby’s developing brain and organs. Regular consumption of alcohol during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, brain damage, miscarriage, stillbirth, and life-long debilitation.

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts and What to Do About Them

Symptoms of Ovarian Cysts and What to Do About Them

While it is pretty common for women to have ovarian cysts, it is important to understand where they come from, how they affect your body, and what you should look for and do about them. Ovarian cysts can come in many different forms and most are pretty harmless. However, when you start to consistently feel bloated, feel sharp random pains, or experience pain during sex, these are signs that you should make an appointment with your OBGYN and get yourself checked out. 

What are ovarian cysts?

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that can form in a woman’s ovaries, generally during her menstrual cycle and they typically go unnoticed. While most are painless, cysts can become a problem when they are enlarged or don’t go away. 

It is normal for a woman to experience having at least one ruptured cyst a month because during a normal menstrual cycle, the ovaries produce a cyst that intentionally ruptures to release an egg, allowing the woman to become pregnant. When the cyst ruptures, fluid is released into the pelvis in a process called ovulation. If the egg that was released is fertilized by sperm, a pregnancy occurs. If not, a period occurs. 

While the vast majority of ovarian cysts are benign (non-cancerous) and harmless, if you have abnormal pains or discomfort for an extended period of time, you should look out for these signs: 

Irregular or delayed periods

Periods can be complicated and irregularities can occur for a number of reasons (check out our article on the causes of irregular periods). Ovarian cysts can be yet another factor that complicates periods further and can add pain and discomfort. Some months, the cyst that forms is larger and releases more fluid, causing immense pain while other months the cyst is smaller, releasing less fluid and causing slight discomfort. 

Sharp pain around your pelvic region

While mild to moderate pain may come with your period, if you experience random, excruciating pains outside of your menstrual cycle, it may indicate complicated cysts. You will most likely feel this pain in your lower pelvic region where your ovaries are located. Look out for a pain that stays in one specific area and stays even after your period goes away. 

Sex is painful

If you find yourself experiencing pain during sex when that has not normally been the case, you should make an appointment with your OBGYN. Enlarged cysts can make sex incredibly uncomfortable and even painful. 

You constantly feel the urge to go to the bathroom

If you constantly feel like you need to use the bathroom, it may be that a large ovarian cyst is pushing on your bladder and applying constant pressure to that organ. An easy way to detect if this is the case for you is to monitor how many times you are using the bathroom throughout the day and note what you’re doing on each trip. If you often get to the bathroom and find you don’t have the urge to urinate, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. 

You feel hormonal

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a condition where women have several small cysts on their ovaries that affect their hormones and can cause irregular periods, sudden weight gain, and acne. Because there are so many cysts on such a small space, it can cause an imbalance in estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, which triggers the above-mentioned symptoms. The only way to diagnose PCOS is by having a doctor run a blood test or conduct an ultrasound exam. 

How can I prevent and treat ovarian cysts?

Unfortunately, there are no preventative measures a woman can take to keep ovarian cysts from forming. They occur naturally as part of the menstrual cycle or on their own. However, if you feel any of the aforementioned symptoms: vomiting, heavy bleeding, or excruciating pain, there may be complications and you should consult your OBGYN. He or she will conduct a pelvic ultrasound to diagnose enlarged ovarian cysts and then conduct a follow-up ultrasound three to four months later during a period. Enlarged cysts typically disappear within that time. 

Some cysts will require surgical removal but in the majority of cases, cysts are nothing to worry about.

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